Every time I've sat down to write about this Thanksgiving and attempted to articulate what made it different than years before I have found myself stumped to the ultimate degree. My previous Thanksgivings were never bad, but they weren't as amazing as this year either.
I'm starting to realize that at this childless and family-far-far-away period of my life that holidays in their traditional sense make me want to stab my eyes out with toothpicks. One at a time. Very slowly. Maybe even with a dash of tabasco just to really make things fun.
When I attempt to recreate a "traditional" version of Thanksgiving or Christmas I find myself feeling like a faker. Drowning in expectations and spending most of the holiday viewing it from the outside. There is only one home cooked Thanksgiving meal I want, and it's served in my childhood home with my family. THE END. Anything else just isn't… Thanksgiving. At least in my head.
So although I missed my family this year, because I knew this year I wouldn't be doing anything even remotely "traditional," for the first time in a very long time I was actually excited about Thanksgiving.
That morning Adam and I woke up late to softly falling snow. We drove the five easy miles from our house to the park where miles of freshly powdered cross-country ski trails waited. We spent nearly two hours crossing through a snow covered forest. We spotted fresh moose footprints, we hollered as we flew down hills and laughed when we got stuck in powder up to our knees. It was cold and crisp, and perfect.
We relaxed at home after a long day of skiing, dressed to impressed, and headed south to the little ski town of Girdwood. From then on everything was perfection beyond anything I could have imagined. Why? Because, there were no expectations!
The Alyeska Hotel is something right out of a movie. It's beautifully nestled below some terrifyingly amazing mountains, in the most picture perfect Alaskan valley, and decorated in the exact style you would expect from a high end Alaskan ski resort. Polar bears, dark wood, leather chairs, vistas, firepits, moose heads, hi, can I move in?
Oh look, there are people ice skating on the pond out back playing a pickup game of hockey. Dear Alaska, you're too damn cute. Love, Ashley.
But even though the Alyeska Resort is insanely cool, the best was yet to come. We still had to get our tram ticket and ride the 7 minutes up the mountain to the very tip of a mountainside where we would dine at the gloriously fancy 7 Glaciers restaurant.
The funny thing was Adam and I sort of forgot that since we were having an early dinner and the ski resort was still open for actual SKIERS that we would be sharing the tram with snow covered folks. There we are on the FREEZING cold platform in our nice clothes, me in a dress no less and my pretty little coat surrounded on all sides by snowboarders. Words like, "YO" and "Dude" and "awesome powder" even a few "shreds" were being thrown around left and right, and even though the sign above our chariot read "capacity 60 people" I just couldn't fathom we'd put that many bodies in this tiny tin can.
But oh, they did.
I've never felt quite as uncomfortable as I did for those 7-10 minutes literally smashed against a window in a freezing gondola, dressed to impress yet crammed up against snow dusted snowboarders. Adam and I sort of stood there frozen in space, shivering, and myself just a smidge terrified as I looked at how far this metal can would tumble if something went wrong, just willing the ride to go faster. Please go faster gondola man. Please. I beg you.
But of course we made it to the top in one piece. The boarders went their way, and we went ours. We cosied up to the bar while we waited for our table and had the pleasure of looking out to a wall of windows where we could watch skiers fly down a clearly black, or maybe even double black ski run while the snow covered mountains of the valley slowly went out of focus as night fell.
We went to our table, the most perfect table I could have asked for. Windows everywhere, and the town of Girdwood the smallest twinkles of lights hundreds upon hundreds of feet below us.
Our menu was a 5 course tasting menu, with specially selected wine pairings. The meal was everything I could have wanted and more. Adam and I relaxed, ate, tasted, enjoyed, and although I love my family dearly, on that mountaintop I finally didn't miss them.
After dinner as we waited for our tram to arrive and bring us off the mountain we walked out onto the eagles nest, a tiny circular coffee shop that juts even further off the mountain than our resturant did. We were cold and amazed and happy. The gondola was void of smelly snowboarders on the way down, and when we drove home I felt nothing but sheer joy. There was no regret. I didn't secretly wish the night would hurry up and end already, and Adam and I remarked for the zillionth time that night that this was our new tradition. Something to not simply fill the space of this day, but to look forward to all year long.
So for the first time in years all I can say is, I can't wait for Thanksgiving to come again next year.